First of all, let us take a moment to appreciate the extraordinary packaging Pepe Marais' new book, 20 Habits that Break Habits arrived in. The book was delivered to my door by Pepe's publisher, Tracey McDonald, for review enclosed in a giant cigarette box, complete with gold foiling, 'warning' information and a functional flip-top. Even those who say packaging doesn't matter and that one shouldn't judge a book by its cover will have to concede that they did a beautiful job.
Underneath the cover
As to the contents of the box, the book itself reads like a stern but well-intentioned talking to by your parents. 20 Habits that Break Habits
does what is says on the proverbial can. In it, Pepe gives advice on how to cut everything from red meat and alcohol to self-depreciation out of your life and replace these “limiting habits” (some of the “vices” warned against, it has to be said, are a touch on the subjective side) with more mindful “liberating” habits (a practice which is, in and of itself, a good habit to adopt).
Are you ready to get naked?
The idea of replacing bad habits with better ones, in turn, reminded me of my good friend Pierre DuPlessis’ own book, Train Naked
, which was also published (entirely coincidentally) by Tracey McDonald a few months ago.Train Naked
is a book filled with short mindful reflections, almost like a secular daily devotional, that encourage the reader to train and focus their mind and body - much like the ancient Greeks used to do in their Palestras, naked and exposed, living life more intentionally and more open to new ideas and experiences. In other words, Train Naked
is about building better habits into our personal lives and into our work.
Sled dog team, or wolf pack?
My favourite mini chapter in Train Naked
has to be the one titled “Sled dog team, or wolf pack?
”, in which Pierre explains one of the key choices - or trade-offs - we have to face in our personal and professional lives. Specifically, he explains how security comes at the expense of freedom. For example, salaried workers typically earn lower hourly rates and have to work fixed hours but have the peace of mind of knowing the date and amount they will be paid each month. Freelancers and entrepreneurs, however, can command higher hourly rates and can therefore, should they choose, work less hours for more income than salaried workers, but in exchange they have to live with the uncertainty of what and when their next invoice will be paid.
Fear or trust?
Similarly, in societies we can trade away our freedoms for additional securities from our governments. We can demand more draconian censorship and limitations on free speech, in return for “safe spaces” and a reduced risk of getting our feelings hurt. We can exchange the freedom to do with our money as we wish for high welfare rates and more generous social security benefits that reduce our personal risk of falling on hard times, at the cost of enduring higher tax rates. We can increase our sense of security by erecting booms that close off our suburbs from society and our countries from our neighbouring nations, but only by restricting the freedom of movement of our neighbours (and ourselves).
It really comes down to how much freedom we are prepared to swap for diminishing marginal returns to security. It’s really a question of how much value we give, as individuals and as society, to fear
(of others and of failure) and trust
(in our own abilities and in our neighbours) respectively.
Incidentally, overcoming fear was one of the bad habits Pepe encourages us to quit in his book too.
So, over to you: Are you willing to leave the safety of your cage for the freedom to explore your full potential? Are you willing to give up a little safety to start that new project or go on that adventure? Are you willing to risk mediocrity for the - no guarantees - possibility of bigger, better things? Or are you comfortable in your cage?